HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In response and preparation, Towns County has suspended all “non-essential” government spending due to the COVID-19 crisis plaguing the nation. As a county that depends heavily on tourism dollars, the local economy has begun to suffer significant financial loss.
“As the county continues to take measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus within our community, there will be no unexpected expenditures. Due to the decrease of tourists’ activity and local social distancing, we also expect a significant decrease in revenues; sales tax, alcohol tax, fees for services, etc,” Towns County Finance Director Andrea Anderson announced to elected officials and department heads. “As no one really has any idea how long the country will face this pandemic event, it is imperative that we take action now in order to ensure that the county can continue to operate and protect the citizens of our community during this pandemic event.”
If an expenditure is not “absolutely imperative to operations,” it will be postponed until the pandemic is under control and the local economy increases, even if previously budgeted. Likewise, out-of-town training has been suspended unless deemed necessary.
“This is going to be very expensive,” Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw said, adding that the county’s main concern is to protect the health and well-being of its citizens and government employees. “We do have a rainy day fund. The county does have emergency money that we have saved…We’re not in a panic mode, nothing like that, but it is time to start watching our money right now because we don’t know how long this is gonna last.”
Thanks to prior planning for unexpected events by the county’s former commissioner, Bill Kendall, Towns County has maintained an emergency reserve fund in excess of $3 million since Bradshaw was elected to office in 2016.
Continue to follow FYN for local updates on the COVID-19 pandemic.
ATLANTA, Ga – Governor Brian Kemp announced schools, childcare providers, local governments in Georgia now have the option to close, at least, for the next two weeks, starting this afternoon, during his latest COVID-19 press conference.
Mere hours after he confirmed, the first death in Georgia from COVID-19, Kemp gathered Speaker of the House David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to reveal extra measures for Georgians regarding the virus.
“Our message is changing. Elderly Georgians and those with chronic underlying health conditions face a much higher risk of adverse consequences from exposure to coronavirus,” stated Kemp. “We need to help them to dramatically limit their exposure to the public for the foreseeable future.”
These individuals need to avoid mass gatherings, even faith-based events to protect themselves against the virus. Two COVID-19 patients in Bartow did share contact by attending the same church.
Kemp urged citizens to talk with their families and make plans to protect those at risk by picking up their groceries, prescriptions, and helping them in any way possible.
The call to close schools or government offices isn’t a mandate, but, rather, the option now available, when “prudent”, to help keep Georgians safe. However, if counties, schools, or childcare providers don’t see a need to shut down, then they do not have to close.
Additionally, all elder care facilities are now closed to visitation until April 10, 2020, except for family members and end of life services.
Non-essential travel and telework are now in effect for state government, but the government offices and Capitol will remain open. Kemp’s office will send out guidance to all agency leaders for implantation.
The governor also implemented four new committees as part of the coronavirus task force: Emergency Preparedness Committee, led by Insurance Safety and Fire Commissioner John King, Economic Impact Committee, led by State Economist Jeff Dorfman, Primary Care Physicians Committee, led by Dr. Ben Watson, and Homeless Community Committee, led by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Update on Testing Capabilities
Toomey stated that currently the state can perform 50 tests a day and the department of health has more equipment on the way as well as additional training. She hopes the number will be up to 100 tests a day by the end of next week. Right now, Georgia has enough materials to conduct 500 tests in part thanks to the support from the CDC.
“We are testing high-risk patients,” said Toomey.
20 percent of patients have more severe diseases and five percent need help breathing, so those who fall into the high-risk category are being tested first.
Lab Corp can now process tests, which should speed up the process. The CDC has eased restrictions on COVID-19 testing, so the M-95 masks are no longer necessary as part of protective equipment.
She stressed the importance of those who might have COVID-19 to call ahead because no one wants to infect those in the emergency room or waiting room.